The next mayor - Page 4

Can the left win, or will egos and infighting turn this into a huge missed opportunity?

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Players: Supes David Campos, Eric Mar, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, John Avalos, and David Chiu and former Sup. Aaron Peskin

Then there are the outsiders. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has already announced he plans to run in the fall. If the board's looking for a respected candidate who can appeal to moderates as well as progressives, his name will come up. So will state Sen. Mark Leno, who has the political gravitas and experience and would be formidable in a re-election campaign in November. Leno doesn't always side with the left on local races; he supported Supervisor-elect Scott Wiener, and losing D6 candidate Theresa Sparks. But he has always sought to remain on good terms with progressives.

All that assumes that the current board will make the choice — and even that is a matter of strategic and political dispute. If the lame duck supervisors choose a mayor — particularly a strong progressive — you can count on the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsom, and the downtown establishment to call it a "power grab" and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the winner.

"But choosing a mayor is the legal responsibility of this board and they ought to do their jobs," Peskin said.

The exact makeup of the next board was still unclear at press time. Jane Kim is the likely winner in D6 and has always been a progressive on the School Board. She's also close to Chiu, who strongly supported her. If Malia Cohen or Lynette Sweet wins D10, it's unlikely either of them will vote for a progressive mayor.

Newsom also might try to screw things up with a last-minute power play. He could, for example, simply refuse to take the oath of office as lieutenant governor until after the new board is seated.

Chiu's allies say it makes sense for the progressives to choose a mayor who's not identified so closely with the left wing of the board, who can appeal to the more moderate voters. That's a powerful argument, and Herrera and Leno can also make the case. The progressive agenda — and the city — would be far better off with a more moderate mayor who is willing to work with the board than it has been with the arrogant, recalcitrant, and distant Newsom. And if the progressives got 75 percent of what they wanted from the mayor (as opposed to about 10 percent under Newsom), that would be cause to celebrate.

But to accept that as a political approach requires a gigantic assumption. It requires San Franciscans to give up on the idea that this is still, at heart, a progressive city, that the majority of the people who live here still believe in economic and social justice. It means giving up the dream that San Francisco can be a very different place, a city that's not afraid to defy national trends and conventional wisdom, a place where socioeconomic diversity is a primary goal and the residents are more important than the big companies that try to make money off them. It means accepting that even here, in San Francisco, politics have to be driven by an ever-more conservative "center."

It may be that a progressive can't line up six votes, that a more moderate candidate winds up in the Mayor's Office. But a lot of us aren't ready yet to give up hope.

Additional reporting by Noah Arroyo.